How To Stop Ghosting People (aka How To Reject Someone Kindly)
Let's face it: No one likes awkward situations, and unfortunately, dating is chock-full of them. While these often happen with people you've recently met and aren't strongly invested in, these people deserve the same amount of respect you'd give anyone else. By choosing to enter the dating world, you also need to commit to treating the people you meet with kindness—aka not ghosting them.
A recent Dating.com survey found that 75% of people have ghosted someone they were casually dating, and 92% of people have been ghosted. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a lot of unnecessary confusion and pain to me.
So, let's stop this painful bit of dating. As licensed mental health counselor Grace Suh, Ed.M., LMHC, LPC, tells mindbodygreen, "Even casual dating needs a formal breakup to close the chapter and move on. You may feel awkward to have the conversation, but the other person may not have considered the relationship to be casual and needs clear directions as to where the relationship will go."
It may be nerve-wracking to tell someone that you're not interested in them, but it's respectful and deserved. Here's everything you need to know to stop ghosting people for good.
Why do people ghost?
To break the cycle of ghosting, we have to first dig into why people turn to it so often. Again, no one likes to feel awkward, and telling someone you're not into them may be the ultimate awkward moment. "Some people feel compelled to ghost someone because they would rather avoid an awkward conversation and not risk hurting their feelings by ending things," Maria Sullivan, vice president of Dating.com, tells mindbodygreen. "People sometimes think it is easier to just stop answering messages and lose all connection with a person they were dating."
To justify skipping that uncomfortable conversation, people often tell themselves that fading out is nicer than rejecting someone. In reality, you're leaving them waiting and unsure instead of giving them the ability to just move on.
"Ghosting isn't an acceptable way to treat anyone because while it might seem like the easy option, in reality you are leaving the other person in a state of limbo and making the whole process a lot more difficult for them. Ghosting can leave a lot of unanswered questions and make people blame themselves unnecessarily," Charly Lester, co-founder of dating app Lumen, tells mindbodygreen. She sees that ghosting often happens not just due to a lack of romantic interest but also as a result of cold feet from moving too quickly.
How to end things respectfully.
It might help to start with empathy.
Take the time to see things from the other person's point of view and imagine what would really hurt the least. By taking this mature and empathetic stance toward dating, you're taking responsibility for how you treat others and implementing best practices for communicating with others. "Think about how it would make you feel if someone you thought you were getting along with just vanished out of nowhere. Taking the other person's feelings into account is very important, and letting them know that you don't see a future for the relationship will help both parties feel at peace in the long run," Sullivan says.
Use clear, direct statements.
Once you've done that, it's time to rip the Band-Aid off. "Direct statements like, 'I don't think we're a great fit together. Let's talk about how we can close things off.' or 'I'd like to see other people,' or even a polite no thank you when invited on another date are all ways to initiate an ending," sex and relationship therapist Shadeen Francis, LMFT, tells mindbodygreen. "Balancing constructive or critical feedback with positive or appreciative comments can help the other person receive the message better—but you don't have to sugarcoat it."
Suh seconds that: "Use 'I' messages, instead of making blame or criticizing for what you do not like about them or why you lost interest. Too much detail is not necessary. Focus on you and own up to your feelings as a speaker."
Honesty is the best policy.
It may be a cheesy saying, but it's an accurate one to live by. "Do not give mixed signals or false hope. Maybe not at the moment, but the other person probably will appreciate your honesty and you not giving the relationship false hope," Suh says. By providing them with a clear message, they can move on without any questions or uncertainty.
Ghosting is often unnecessarily hurtful, and the healthy alternative is much less complicated than it might seem. Of course, if your date was aggressive, is harassing you, or did something genuinely bad (yes, worse than talking too much about their fantasy football league!), you may want to make an exception to the rule. In all other cases, can we once and for all stop leaving people in limbo and just reject them kindly?
Sarah Fielding is a freelance writer based in New York City. Covering a range of topics with a focus on mental health, sex, and relationships, her work has appeared at Healthline, The Huffington Post, Men's Health, INSIDER, Bustle, NYLON, and more. Fielding received her bachelor's in international fashion and business management from FIT, and also spent time living in Italy and Australia, writing as she traveled. She's the co-founder of Empire Coven, a space for highlighting trailblazing women across New York.